1) Because it's useful to see what's good and what's not with all the various Back to School bits and pieces that are available and
2) Because it means we're closer to the normality of weekdays during school term resuming; hurrah!
This week's Back to School bits and bobs arrived in the PlayPennies office courtesy of, the well-known and respected pens, pencils and paints people - Faber-Castell
We sent everything - and there was quite a lot of it - off to PlayPennies mum Lorna, and her family, to test on our behalf.
Lorna got rather excited about the Faber-Castell Connector Paint Box (£7.99).
"It is a container, with rubber clips on each side to secure the lid which comes right off," she describes. "Turn it over and there are indentations you can use to mix paints. Inside the box are 12 solid blocks of paint, each in its individual plastic container. These are all fully detachable, and can be removed from the box."
"In the middle are two compartments. In the smaller one is a tube of Chinese white, and a larger empty container where you could store more tubes or paintbrushes."
Lorna tells us that the paints are lovely to use and can be smoothly applied. In her opinion, the design of the Connector Paint Box is excellent, especially being able to take each block of paint out.
"Children can hold the individual paints blocks whilst using the brush," she explains,"and also it stops them from contaminating the other blocks with darker colours in advertantly."
She does have a minor complaint about the box though. "It's just not robust enough," she says, "as I discovered, when my son dropped it on the floor. We don't have carpet, and one of the plastic bits that secures the rubber grips snapped right off."
The Faber-Castell Trio Sharpener costs £3.00 and is prism shaped.
There are no prizes for guessing what it does and to quote Lorna, "The trio sharpener is a pencil sharpener, and yup, it sharpens pencils!"
It has a lid/door (call them what you will) on each side, for releasing caught pencil shavings, and two sized sharpeners - one for jumbo sized pencils and one for ordinary sized ones. It is also designed for use with graphite and colour pencils.
"As a budding artist, my young assistant tester thought the sharpener worked well but it isn't going to be an addition to his pencil case simply because of its size," Lorna explains, "he felt it was too bulky to carry about and for everyday use would just use an ordinary, small sharpener."
The Faber-Castell 12 Colour Grip Pencils (£14.24) are perfect for Lorna's son, who has fine motor skills problems.
"Over the years we've used a lot of these triangular shaped pencils and pens," reveals Lorna, "the traingle shape does work well for that extra grip. What I liked about these pencils though is that they're the same size as normal pencils - they're not short and stubby."
"So if your child still has gripping problems, they won't feel like they stand out as much in class," she continues. "Each side is dotted with raised dots as well, so they won't be as likely to slip down the pencil when they apply pressure while writing or drawing."
I love to draw, but have never had any experience of 'grip pencils' - it's good to know that they ARE actually useful, rather than a gimmick that can be used in an attempt to justify a higher price.
10 Jumbo Colour Pencils
These 10 Faber-Castell Jumbo Colour Pencils, cost £8.95 and come with their own jumbo-sized pencil sharpener.
Lorna really appreciated this, "As a parent, I SO glad these pencils come with their own jumbo sharpener. My son has other large colour pencils, and it is a right pain sharpening them with a knife," she says, "Not to mention blunting my knives!"
The pencils were a big hit with her son too because he could apply lots of colour to the paper without having to use much pressure.
I love to draw and colour with coloured pencils; the thing is, they just don't rub out very well if you make a mistake or change your mind about something you've drawn; very frustrating.
So I was looking forward to hearing what Lorna had to say about the set of 12 Faber-Castell Erasable Pencils (£5.75) we sent her.
She has it on good authority, from her young artist and tester, that, "The colours are WELL cool!"
"This means he likes drawing with them," Lorna translates.
"He liked that there were erasers on the pencils because, "you don't often get that". But he didn't find that they erased any better than the usual pencils he uses for artwork."
Lorna does say that this could be because he is particularly heavy handed.
I hope so, it would be fabulous to have colouring pencils that rub out just as well as non-coloured pencils do.
The paints were smooth, and apart from the slight damage caused when the Connector Paint Box was dropped, Lorna had nothing but praise for it.
Her son loved how the colour was easily applied from the pencils to paper and the Colour Grip pencils really helped him overcome the difficulty he has, sometimes, with tasks that require fine motor movements.
The 10 jumbo pencils come with their own jumbo sharpener, which is very considerate and useful. And whilst the Trio Sharpener might be a bit big for your average sized school pencil case, it'll definitely be handy to have around the house for all pencil sharpening purposes.
So whilst Faber-Castell products aren't cheap and cheerful, when compared with other pencils and paints, they're drawing and painting qualities really can't be disputed; definitely one of those occasions where you get what you pay for.